Paintball Safety

There has been a growing number of non-paintball stores that have been getting into the scene to make a few bucks from the sport. It is sad. I have gone into a few of these mega sports places to see what is sold. Most of the time, it is way over priced. The second thing I notice is the lack of knowledge the ones behind the counter have on the sport. Most importantly, safety. The last thing is the lack of “restrictions” on the buyers. Because of that, those that have no intention on playing paintball will purchase these inexpensive markers and cause grief by shooting houses, cars, and other things like that. Even to the extent of shooting unprotected people.

Paintball is one of the safest sports as compared to many other non-violent sports as reported by insurance companies. Including golf! At fields that have a good number of staff, safety is instructed before games have started. From then on, these rules are enforced through out the day. Most of the specialized paintball shops will show new owners of their new “toys” how to work it. Most importantly, the safety devices.

Goggles

Goggles are the main safety features of paintball. Unlike the first days of paintball where only wood shop goggles were used, today’s players’ sport goggles that protect eyes, face, and ears. These masks are regulated by the ASTM International to provide maximum safety for all players. Only goggle systems made for paintball are allowed. All other forms of eye protection should not be used. Paintballs travel at high, yet safe speeds. But for the unprotected eye(s), this can cause permanent blindness. In my time, I have seen a few one-eyed paintball players.

Since goggles are the main source of protecting your eyes, care should given to ensure that they will not fail. Remember that use only goggles made for paintball are to be used. These are made to withstand several close range impacts of paintballs. Inspect your goggle system the night before when you get your gear together. When carrying your gear, best to carry your goggle system separate from the rest of your equipment. If you toss your goggles in a box with the rest of your stuff, you can scratch your lenses easily. A scratch on lenses weakens the durability. Carry it separately. Best if in a soft sack to protect it from the sun. Like the scratches, baking a mask in your car will reduce its durability. And don’t just toss it in your trunk. Things tend to shift while driving. Put it on the floor of the vehicle or hold it yourself if you are a passenger. Not a bad idea to further protect the lenses to wrap a bandana around the lens. Even if you do place it in a carrying bag.

If you do take a hit between the eyes, many will suggest changing the lens. It is a good idea to do that but can be expensive. However, are your eyes not worth it? I would suggest a lens change after 1 play season if no direct impact on the mask was sustained. Change the lens after 2 lens impacts. Earlier if it was a shot closer than 25 ft. as paintballs travel faster when they just leave the barrel. Or, during inspection the night before while getting your gear together, you may find some flaws in the goggles. Change them. Also not a bad idea to carry an extra lens with you to the field. If your goggle band is starting to fray, time for a new band. Would not be fun to have the band break and your goggle fall off. Any cracks forming on the face mask portion? Invest in a new goggle system.

If you have been goggled (hit in the goggles), inspect the goggles when you get to the staging area. Make sure everything is intact and no scratches. Cleaning the goggles is simple; water and a towel. Nothing more. Do not use Windex. Try and wash off as much of the paint with water only. Then pat dry the goggles. Rubbing with the towel could leave scratches. When you finally get home, clean the goggles first! Leaving paint will eventually start to weaken plastic even though paint is environmentally safe. This may require you to pop out the lens and clean in the channel the lens sits in.

 

And of course, heed the manufacture suggestions for caring for your goggles. You only have a set of eyes that should last a lifetime. Do as much as possible to protect them.

Barrel Plugs

These are mandatory at fields. There are two different types of barrel plugs. Both are used to stop paintballs from accidentally leaving the paintball marker during an accidental discharge. Even when a safety is engaged. Many fields will have certain areas that must have a barrel plug used. Particularly in areas where goggles are not on. I suggest getting one. Though, many markers purchased today comes with such safety device for the barrel. That way you are not hassled by the field staff or forced to purchase one of theirs. Along with your choice of barrel plug, always use your safety.

One type of barrel plug is an actual plug that is inserted into the barrel muzzle. These should be hard to insert and taken out. Many of the markers will come with one like the Spyder. The aftermarket ones comes in all shapes and sizes. But due to the different barrel bore sizes, there have been cases where the plug can be shot off. There are plugs that can be inserted, then twisted to lock in place. These are not that dependable. Also, over time of inserting and removing the plug, it will wear down and not be so tight in the barrel.

The second type of plug is called a barrel condom or bag. These are more dependable in stopping accidental shooting of paintballs. This is simply a bag that covers the muzzle of the barrel. It has an adjustable strap to loop over the hopper or tank and pulled tight insuring that the bag will not be shot off. If an accidental discharge happens, the bag stays in place because it is tied. Much more dependable. I do suggest that you purchase one of these if favor of the plug.

Personal Safety

There are also some more precautions that can be done besides a good goggle system. Not all is needed, but can be considered. I will leave that up to you. I tried to place them in some sort of order.

      Sports protection for the individual sexes. Not really going to get into specifics. Just gonna say chest protectors for the gals and sports cups for the guys.

    • Footwear. Ankle support is good to have when running in uneven terrain like woods. Nothing like a twisted ankle because you slipped in some mud to ruin your trip back with the flag.
    • Throat protection. Nothing like getting hit in the Adams apple. A few companies like JT makes a throat guard and wraps around your neck. You could also wear a turtleneck or a bandana.

Head. Other than the goggles, what about the top and rear. Wearing a baseball hat backwards will help.

  • Knee and elbow pads are not bad to have. Never know what you will trip over.
  • Gloves. There are some paintball companies that make gloves with “armor” on the tops to keep the sting down from a hit there. They also have rubber on the palm to help in gripping.
  • Fogged lens. Invest in some quality anti-fog spray. This helps keep the goggle lens from fogging. A fogged lens means a faster way of tripping.
  • Personal appearance. What? What I mean by this is removing body piercing if possible. If not, attach some padding. Remove earrings. Then there is long hair. Tie it up or wear a hat.

Gun Safety

Always handle any marker as if it was loaded and ready to fire. Even if the safety and barrel plug are used. And even if there is no tank or hopper on the marker. Always point the barrel down. Never at anyone. Especially those that do not have goggles. Listen to the pre-game instruction at the field. There may be rules pertaining to where you can and cannot shoot your markers.

When at the staging area, always have a barrel plug inserted before you add paint or air. And use the safety. When walking from the staging area to the field, have both safety devices engaged. Even when you walk onto the field to the starting station, keep them in. When the ref asks if you are ready to start, then disengage those devices. Only shoot your marker at your intended target in designated areas. And, only if the target has the proper safety equipment.

If and when you get shot out, walk as fast as you can to the off field staging area or to the common staging area. As soon as you cross the tape, engage the safety and insert the barrel plug. At the end of the day, take out all of your paintballs from the hopper and the feed neck. Go to the fields target range and shoot several shots to make sure there is no paintballs left in the barrel/chamber. Then proceed with degassing your marker.

I mention that precaution should be made even without a hopper or an air tank connected to the marker. If it is a closed bolt, you simply cannot look in the feed port to see paint. There could be a paintball inside of the breech. If you do not have a tank on the marker, it could be gassed up. Some markers have devices (check valve, most type of regulators, etc…) that can hold air between this device and the markers valve. It could fire the marker if the above two instances are present. You could have a marker fire this paintball several days after the game. Make sure you degas the marker completely before leaving the field and putting the marker away. This may involve firing the marker several times after the tank is removed. This includes cocking the marker when i fails to recock and dry firing once again.

One other precaution that should be added. And that is off the regulated field. Please, I do not reccomend playing in any other place other than the regulated fields. Here is why I say this.

Many youths today cannot afford to play at regulated fields. Or, they may be impatient and want to play during the week and not wait for parents or guardians to take them to a regulated field on the weekend. They opt to play in the backyard or in a local patch of woods. This is called outlaw paintball. Simply put, not playing with enforced “laws” during play. Because of this, the chances of somebody removing the lenses due to fogging is increased. Maybe thoses that are not playing and at a staging area that is not protected could be hit. Not only that, but innocent bystanders could be attracted to the pop-pop-pop of the markers and the sounds of action may wonder unkowningly onto the field of play and get hurt. This is especially so of small children.

How about at home? Again, it should be known that a paintball marker is not a toy and should be handled as a real firearm. Basic firearm knowledge of how to handle this piece of equipment should be taught to the younger generation (teens and below) along with the adults. And constant reminders. Possibly going so far as to getting a trigger blocking or similar safety device used on real firearms. One never knows if your young one may want to show off this cool thing to their friends. And next thing you know, you have police and ambulance at your door.

Just because the hopper was removed and not on the marker, that doesn’t mean that a paintball could not be in the breach or barrel of the marker. I have had personal experience of a paintball still in the barrel and was stuck inside. And over time, that paintball expanded due to the environment. Getting the paintball out took great effort to expel it from the barrel. I would suspect that it could take a few shots dry firing to expel the same projectile. Really, the home is not the place to discharge the marker unless tremendis precautions are done.

Remember, be responsible. Be careful and mindful of the surroundings. Obey the direction of the field staff and rules of the field. Arriving home unhurt is definately a great day of paintball. And take even more care when off the field.

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Velocity

This should be headed at all times. The industry standard velocity maximum for paintball markers in organized fields and tournaments is 300fps. This can be found at ASTM International 1776. With this standard, the manufacturers have designed the safety equipment that we use to withstand punishment. Not only that, but personal unprotected areas can recieve suprising amount of damage. Did you know that a paintball traveling faster than 300fps can break bones in your hand?

Because of this industry standard, the sport has been proud to show to the public and insurance agencies a very positive safety record yearly as compared to other safe sports. To see some examples, see my statistic table in my Newbie – F.A.Q.. So, before you turn that velocity up, think about not only the injury that you can cause, but also the view point that this sport has. It is controversial enough with shooting each other with “guns”. No need to add gasoline to the fire with an increase of reported injurys.

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Paintballs

You may not think about mixing paintballs and safety. But there is a thin margin of safety that I should mention.

Paintballs are made to certain standards that allow them to withstand the brunt of the pow from the discharge of air from the marker and not break. But upon impact, will break and mark the target with the paint fill. However, sometimes fresh paintballs do not break upon impact. Just the way it is sometimes. So, if these paintballs are traveling over the industry standard of 300fps, serious damage can be recieved. Broken fingers for one. Your paintball specific masks are rated to withstand over this limit. But stresses of multiple impact of paintballs (properly breaking or not) will weaken the mask. Don’t take the chance to exceed this velocity limit.

Must also bring out that paintballs react with the surrounding environment. These paintballs will expand and contract according to the humidity and/or temperature. As time goes by, the inside fill will harden or even soak through the shell and effect other paintballs. Old hard paintballs traveling at a safe velocity can still do some damage. If you had purchased paintballs and kept them for more than six (6) months, best to throw them out and get fresh ones. Even if they look fine.

To end up this article, always always always think safety on and off the field. The ASTM and regulated fields can only do so much for your protection. Some fields to get the proper insurance may need to instil certain rules to qualify aside from corresponding with the ASTM regulations. The manufacturer of all equpment used are also regulating with safety in mind. But it is you the end user that will have to enforce yourself or your loved ones the proper safety precautions of these devices. Like a firearm, it is not just safety for oneself, but it is also those around you. Keep safety formost when handling anything paintball.


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